LOGAN — The 2013 Logan Chieftains won't be a two-platoon football team.
Several players will play both defense and offense, so it will be essential to develop depth and find creative times and ways to give players a break.
"I suppose you could call us a shade-50 defense, but really we're a multiple defense," said head coach Billy Burke. "The defense is structured to be able to play against a Lancaster (with huge size), which is a power-running team in a wing-T set, but also prepared for when we play Newark against a very good quarterback and multiple receivers. The defense is structured to adapt to the (opponents') offensive system.
"The reason that's the case is that teams have so much time in the off-season to throw the football that we have to be able to defend the pass," he added. "Years ago, you didn't work on the pass as much; everybody ran the football more, so everybody was geared to stop the run and make you pass. Well, now we have to be able to defend the pass as much as we defend the run."
"The defense is flexible in that we're able to check coverages automatically, sometimes based upon the offensive formation," Burke stated. "It's not as if we're in only one type of defense that we have to make adjustments out of; our adjustment is to check to a different coverage or a different look."
With one exception, personnel along the defensive line will be the same as on the O-line.
Senior "Charlie Paulsen (6-3, 250) is going to play nose tackle, solidify (the line) and only be on the defensive line," Burke said. "Reggie Wesselhoeft (6-4, 300) will on the defensive line with him; Nick Schneider (6-0, 215) and Brock Emerson (5-10, 250) will rotate through; Jesse Needs (5-11, 225) will play some of the defensive line, and Caleb Myers (6-0, 205) will play some on the defensive line."
Bryce McBride (5-9, 175), the first freshman to earn an LHS varsity football letter since 1960, will be joined by senior Austin Scarberry (5-7, 185) as middle linebackers, with Dean Jordan (6-0, 185) and Kevin Fisher (6-8, 225) competing for the outside position.
"Evan DeLong (6-3, 175) and Nick Maniskas (5-11, 170) are at corner, with Nathan Cocks (5-9, 155) and Dominick Stevens (5-6, 150) having the ability to play corner, and at safety are Nick Kost (6-0, 185), Cole Baron (5-10, 180) and Isiah Smith (6-0, 160)," Burke said.
"When we evaluated our talent, we looked at how many guys we felt we have capable of playing in our secondary," he continued, "and we came up with eight or nine names... those were the same eight or nine we felt confident in if they had to play receiver as well. That goes back to the job the coaches did in building depth.
"The reason we have so much depth and availability of players is that our coaches did a real nice job during camp of coaching kids up, so we know kids who are physically capable of playing those positions. Because of the job we've done coaching-wise, they're mentally prepared to step in. They understand the concepts of the offense as opposed to just memorizing a position. Therefore, they can come in and play a position that isn't traditionally the one they play, but they can come in because they understand the compliment of the position."
As many as eight or nine players could be playing both ways, which will especially be tougher to deal with early in the season when the weather is hot.
"It goes back to where we want to find guys who are one-and-a-half-way players, so our job as a coaching staff is to find creative ways and to give guys breaks," Burke revealed. "We may have a guy who is our best offensive and defensive lineman, but if he's out there each and every play, especially early in the season, he's no longer a starter in ability because he's tired and it's hot.
"We've just taken a starter who, because he's fatigued, may be playing like a third-teamer, so we have to get him out of the game in certain spots and get guys in there and give him breaks," he added. "We have to have capable backups when our starters are not in the game."
The Chiefs have 49 players from their top three grades. That's probably more than several Logan foes this fall.
"Sometimes other teams have the luxury of having more bodies when it's earlier in the season, so not because a team is necessarily better, but sometimes you lose the war of attrition," Burke said. "We as coaches have to have a plan in place to keep our guys as fresh as possible. We don't have the luxury of numbers like a lot of teams.
"Having (49) is a great number," he continued. "If you had to pick ideally, it would be in the 55 to 60 neighborhood, but (49) is especially good for me coming from a school where I was used to having 44 (in grades) nine-through-12, not 48 in 10-through-12."
On special teams, senior newcomer Charles Bowlby (6-1, 155) is the primary specialist for field goals, kickoffs and extra points, backed up by Stevens. Jordan is slated to do the punting.
Not only didn't the Chieftains make a field goal last season but, for the first time in recent memory, they didn't even attempt one. Bowlby tried (and missed) a 37-yarder in last Friday’s OHSAA “Jamboree” scrimmage against Sheridan.
Bowlby, also an outstanding pole vaulter in track and field, sustained a hamstring injury prior to last spring's Division I district meet and could not compete. He has also played soccer in the past but is not doing so this season.
"Charles is now learning to become a football player who kicks as opposed to being just a kicker who kicks," Burke said. At a recent practice, "I put him in a very stressful situation where I told him if he missed a field goal, the rest of the team had to run across the sideline and back.
"Well, they had to run," Burke continued. "I wanted him to understand that if you can handle this pressure, where you're making your teammates run because you missed, then you can handle any pressure from a Friday night."
Burke then told Bowlby to try again, then blew the whistle and called time-out just before the snap from center.
"I don't think he quite understood the icing (of the kicker) concept, but we did that so that if it does happen to him, Charles understands the situation," Burke noted. "It goes back to putting him a stressful position so it's not so bad on Friday night... and nothing's worse than making your teammates run — looking over your shoulder when you miss a field goal and making them run."
Stevens, Isaac Schmeltzer (5-11, 175) and Maniskas are the primary kickoff and punt returners — Maniskas averaged 20 yards per kickoff return in '12 — and Myers will handle long snaps, with sophomore Josh Rardain (5-10, 205) also in the mix.
Coming Thursday: the season premier of "Chieftain Game Night Countdown," with a preview of the Logan-Lancaster game, Spencer Waugh's Lancaster scouting report, and other features that will appear each week.